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Fred Krueger arrives
A Nightmare on Elm Street (DVD)
Member Name: Wolfzilla
A Nightmare on Elm Street (DVD)
Advantages: Scary,acting,villain,effe cts
One of horror cinema's most recognisable icons, and one of the only modern ones able to even claim to fame that comes close to the legends like Dracula and Frankenstein, Freddy Krueger was the creation of Wes Craven, also responisble for legendary video nasties like Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes. While he took little interest in the many sequels Nightmare spewed, with the exception of part 3 and the spin-off New Nightmare, we both directed and wrote the original movie in the series.
This was probably the first horror movie that actually scared me. Sure other movies had scared me before, but when I was a kid, and easily scared, I always managed to prepare myself when watching a horror movie so that it wouldnt scare me. This was almost always successful, but for some reason it never did work with Nightmare on Elm Street.
The movie follows Nancy (Heather Langenkamp - The Demolitionist), a high school student in Springwood, Ohio, who lives on Elm Street with her alcoholic mother Marge (Ronee Blakley - A Return to Salem's Lot) Her father, who is now separated from her mum, is better known as the local police Lt.(John Saxon - Enter The Dragon). She lives a normal life with her friends Tina (Amanda Wyss - Digital Man), Rod (Nick Corri - Predator 2) and Glen (Johnny Depp - Ed Wood).
But things take a turn for the very un-normal when all 4 of them start to experience the same nightmare. In these dreams, they are pursued by a horribly scarred man wearing a fedora, and sporting a glove with knives for fingers.
A little spooked, the 4 stay at Tina's house for a night, but midway through Rod witnesses a mysterious force kill her, using some sort of 4 bladed weapon to slice up her stomach. Naturally the police blame Rod, who now has to go on the run. But it isnt long before the cops, lead by Lt.Thompson apprehend him. Locked in his cell, he becomes the next victim, as in his sleep Freddy strangles him using his bedsheets.
Nancy is getting help with her dreams from doctors, but upon waking from a dream, she discovers she has pulled out a mucky brown fedora, with the name Fred Krueger written on the inside.
Nancy does a little digging into the town's history, via nagging her mother, and discovers who Fred Krueger was. A relentless child-killer who was freed by the courts on a technicality, only to be burned alive by the parents of all the Elm Street children. That includes her parents.
Nancy does the math and figures out that somehow Freddy is stalking the remaining kids in their dreams, but naturally no one believes her.
She devises a plan to get Freddy. She figures that if his hat can come out, so can he, asking Glen to wake her up, the fool falls asleep himself and ends up being sucked into his bed and re-emerging in liquid form. She now has to go it alone, so booby traps the house and gets ready for a showdown the living embodiement of Nightmares.
The acting in ANOES is pretty good overall, but there are a few exceptions to the rule. While never an actress of the calibre that star in 'proper' movies, Langenkamp does well in her role, and could probably have become the closest thing to a modern Scream Queen. Screen Legend John Saxon (he is a legend, shut up) is awesome as her father. While the character could just have been named Cliche, Saxon gives it some personality and is one of the more memorable performances.
Future screen legend Johnny Depp (yes, he is a legend as well now) makes his first appearance here, and while it isn't exactly one of the man's greatest performances, he does give Glen a bit more personality than your average not-actually-teenage movie teens. He actually does look about 17 though, so is quite believeable in his casting.
The show is stolen, however, by Robert Englund. Despite this being before Freddy actually became the main character of the Nightmare movies, and his speech and good views of him are limited, Englund makes him chilling. The voice, the laugh, the walk, even the way he moves his claws, all ooze creepieness, and while the character is good enough, it's Englund's performance that really cements Freddy's place as a horror icon.
On the flipside, while I hate to voice the same whine as almost every reviewer of this movie, ever. Ronee Blakely was pretty bad as Nancy's mother.While I wouldn't go as far as saying she was terrible, she certainly wasnt good. Her performance just seems far too simple and emotionless in delivery. With that said, she does better than some of the people cast in the sequels. On occasion she even comes accross as quite amusing.
The music in the movie also plays an important part in why it works so much better than your average slasher movie. Charles Bernstein's theme tune is unquestionably one of the creepiest tunes in any movie, ever. However, unlike Halloween, where the music was so overused I actually started to find it funny, this movie uses it at key points to keep the atmosphere tense.
The special effects in the movie are brilliant. While some of them haven't aged gracefully (eg Freddy's stretching arms), for the most part they are still good and better than some effects in some movies today (thats 20 years later).Freddy himself, in the rare glimpses we get, actually looks really good, and the scene where Tina is killed and dragged up the roof is also well done effects wise.
One other effect that doesnt look all that great is when Freddy is set on fire. At this point it becomes blatantly clear it is a stuntman, due to the fact he gains several pounds.
The thing about the movie that makes it so good, is that it is genuinely scary. For a start, we will look at the villain of the piece, Freddy. In this movie, we rarely see him in full light, his face often obscured apart from his eyes. He doesn't smile, not even in an evil manner, he just has a permanent look of hatred on his face. His lines in this movie, while minimal, are also a little unnerving, especially when the popular viewing of him is a wise-cracking anti-hero who offs the teens in a variety of inventive ways, and the audience ends up rooting for. In this, he is evil. He doesn't kill people in stupid ways, like turning them into a video game, he claws them all over the walls of a room. There are no wise-cracks. His lines consist of stuff like "you'lle die slow". Hardly the character known for appearances in music videos and the subject of countless marketing campaigns. For a good chunk of the movie we don't even know his name.
Even the basic premise of the character is scary. Child murderers are viewed as being the worst type of criminal, and one who has somehow found a way to not only cheat justice, but death itself and terrorise the world in the limitless medium of dreams is truly the stuff of nightmares. In the Friday the 13th movies, one can feel a certain degree of sympathy for Jason. No such thing can be said for Freddy.
But the other thing that distinguishes this from your run of the mill teen slasher, is that the teens themselves are well written roles. The film is smart enough to stereotype them a little, but not to the degree where it becomes laughable. While Glen is the 'jock', it isn't taken to a perverse level, and he is really just a teenage guy who likes sports.
The way the movie shifts to dreams to reality and back without making clear the shift is also something this entry does incredibly well.
In terms of faults, the only one I can think of is the most disapointing. The ending. The ending makes exactly what is going on incredibly unclear. Is it a dream? where is the car going? how did Freddy come back? generally what the hell happened?. The fact that none of the sequels make any attempt to clarify it just annoys me further.
But apart from that, the only other even semi-complaint I have is that at no point did we see John Saxon's character storming around in a yellow dressing gown/pyjamas, or witness him trying to karate Freddy. But that would have been more suited to the sillieness of the sequels anyway.
At the end of the day, I would recommend the movie to anyone with the slightest liking for Horror movies, even if you have seen one of the sequels and hated it. It has a completely different mood, tone and general purpose to any other movie featuring Freddy Krueger.
Nightmare is truly one of the best horror movies ever, and without a doubt a contender for the title of best horror movie of recent times (well, recent as in post 70s). Its scary, original and well made by all involved.
Maybe its because I watched the sequels, which fall under a variety of degrees of bad, before this one, making all of this movie's qualities seem much higher, but I feel full marks is justified. The only fault that actually strikes you as being a fault is the ending, and even then it isn't that bad.
Summary: ANOES is a brilliant horror movie,scary, well made and with an excellent villain